Front- and backstage in social media

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Oversharing of information about one's private life or the private lives of others appears to be an oft-noted phenomenon in the context of social media. This paper aims at answering the following question: What is it in social media as media and in the communicative situation of the person using them that facilitate oversharing of private information? A comparative analysis of face-to-face interaction and interaction in social media is conducted. The two forms of interaction are compared, firstly, by using Erving Goffman's system model of communication, which consists of eight different system requirements and system constraints, and, secondly, by comparing expressions given, expressions given off and front- and backstage in face-to-face interaction and interaction in social media. The difference between face-to-face interaction and social media has to do with differences in the very natures of the two forms of interaction. The almost automatic coordination between interactors that we find in face-to-face interaction has in social media been replaced by a ping-pong model of interaction in which the technical limitations on the flows of expressions make the transitions in terms of turn-taking, framing and back-channel cues highly distinct and mechanical. When it comes to the communicative situation in which social media users find themselves, it appears to be paradoxical: on the one hand, the users can present themselves in a highly controlled manner while, on the other hand, the risk of oversharing appears to be great.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-31
JournalLanguage, Discourse & Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Bibliographical note

This article was awarded the 2012 Academic Excellence Award from the Research Committee "Language and Society" of the International Sociological Association (ISA).

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
  • Educational Sciences


  • face-to-face interaction
  • social media
  • Erving Goffman
  • oversharing
  • front- and backstage
  • expressions given
  • expressions given off
  • educational sciences
  • sociology


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